Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

From Cold New Jersey, Warm Wishes

It's chilled off here again after a few days of warmer weather. But the blessing of all that is that when the nor'easter came through, we had rain instead of snow. I would not be disappointed if every storm passed us by this winter, but, as they say, I have no control over the weather.

I have the water heater in the trough for the Boys, temporarily hooked up with another extension cord from the garage since the ones out at the barn are under the tractor at the moment. I guess getting them out and untangled will be a chore for another day.

With two days of rain behind us, I did not ride. I did some work in the riding arena yesterday in the showers--it needs to be dragged pretty badly.  Chance came out to "help" me and insisted on standing so close he was nearly touching me the whole time. He was quite pleased when I scratched him under the chin or hugged him. I'm not sure if it was totally affection on his part, but I was honored to have him there.

He tends to be the outcast member of my little herd most of the time, but the social interactions out there are often confused. Sometimes, Toby is off my himself instead. I think when I'm out there, Chance likes to be a member of my herd instead of the equine one, whatever the dynamics.

I will be giving the Boys some apples and carrots for Thanksgiving to let them celebrate as well.

I am ever to thankful to have them here in the backyard where I can see them whenever I want. I may not be riding as much as I used to, but sometimes all I need is a horse to hug to make my day.

To all my blogger friends, I send wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you may be. I know it's an American holiday, but the idea of celebrating the things we are blessed with is certainly universal. May the spirit of the season be yours no matter where you may be.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

'Round the Lake and Back Again

I Think the Tractor's Ready

It dawned on me that I haven't used my tractor for several months. With a potential snow storm on the horizon---hoping it doesn't come--I might need the tractor to plow the driveway. So I decided to start it up today and run it for a bit.

Good thing. The battery was not dead, but in the cold it was too weak to get the tractor started. I hooked up the charger, let is charge for 5-10 minutes and soon the tractor was running just fine. I did have to put air in the one front tire again, but otherwise all was well.

I spent about 45 minutes to an hour cleaning under the run in shed using the bucket to scoop up the loose and wet hay. But, since the tractor bucket has no "teeth" or prongs on the front, a lot of the wet stuff just kind of rolls out of the way instead of getting picked up. That means a good bit of hay forking it in--not an easy task.  In the end I got a lot of exercise and did about half the front shed.

Once done with the tractor, I saddled up Chance and headed out for a trail ride.

I'd walked around the back lake in the woods yesterday by myself and noticed that the footing, especially in the usually very swampy, muddy places as quite good. That meant that without much detouring, I could actually ride a horse around the lake for a change. There's one spot where the ATV's have torn up the dirt road so much it collects over a foot of water on top of a very rutted bottom.

Chance was behaving a little strangely, for some reason. On the way out, he was a little nappy, but that was interspersed with some jigging and trotting.  I had to get a bit sharp with him to make him settle as there are a good number of places where the footing is tricky enough that trotting is not a good idea.

By the time we got to the lake trail, though, he had pretty much settled and from there on, it was a much better ride. He didn't spook at anything and aside from the jigging, took everything in stride.

My biggest disappointment, however, is the amount of trash the so called "sportsmen" of our area leave around out there. There is a place where a hunter parks his truck. About a month ago, I cleaned up a half trash bag of bottles, cans and paper garbage from there. Today there were two potato chip bags, a discarded cigarette pack and some cans again. Damn! If you can carry the food in, you can take the trash out! I'll clean it up again, but if I see that truck parked there again, I'm going to leave a note on the windshield.

Out around the lake it's even worse. There are bottles and cans all around the place, particularly in one spot where the fishermen access the banks. I'm not sure how I would be able to carry out the several trash bags it would take to clean up that area, but maybe if I do it in stages I can clean it up too.

But why should I have to? Why to do people think it's OK to dispose of their trash in these beautiful woodlands?

It breaks my heart.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tucker and I Go Out for a Date

A Nice Walk in the Woods

Since I haven't trail ridden Tucker in quite a while I decided I take him out for a handwalk. With winter coming on, most of the brush along the woods trails has died away so the walking path/trail is pretty clear.

We headed out in the opposite direction from the way I usually ride him, just to make it more interesting.

Tucker was quite a gentleman, considering that he really can walk a lot fast than I can, and when he gets excited, he will try. On the first and last parts of the trail, he had to stay behind me as there is really only room for one of us at a time. Since he was trying to nibble every stray green leaf left on the branches, going at my pace was just fine with him.

Once in the woods, I led him up alongside me, correcting him with a halt and reinback for two steps every time he pushed a little too far ahead. He was alert to every sound and movement in the trees, but was still a good boy about it all.

Back out of the woods along the edge of the now cut cornfield, I let him do some grazing on the grass that still is green even after a frost or two. Needless to say, he was quite pleased with this. I was quite pleased that he did not spook at the blue barrel of corn some hunter set out to lure the deer to a spot near his tree stand.  I was a bit worried about that, but Tucker took it all in stride.

I would have tried riding him out yesterday after the hand walk, but it had turned pretty windy and cold. I didn't think it was a good idea to try riding anyone, let alone Tucker. When I went out for my own walk, I was glad I'd made the no ride decision because it was much windier out along the field than it seemed in my backyard.

Today, I went for my midday swim and then to a chiropractor appointment so I didn't have time to do much horsey stuff.

Don't know if the handwalk will help Tucker settle out on the trail, but I ready to give him a try. Riding in the arena is OK, but going out is a much nice way to spend some time with a horse.

Guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chance and I Go Out on a Date

Well, At Least a Nice Trail Ride

I took Chance out on a trail yesterday afternoon. We are having some totally wonderful weather here with temperatures more like Spring than late Fall.  That's supposed to change during the week, but for now, it's just wonderful. 

Chance was, to my relief, sound and ready to go. He did "drop" his hind leg on one stride going down an incline, but it did not seem to be a big deal as he was fine afterwards.  We rode along the edge of the woods to the back road behind the preserved farm. 

There, Chance took it upon himself to start trotting as  it's a nice long stretch of dirt road. The farmer has not yet cut the corn back there so I had to keep an eye out for strange things popping up out of the field, but it was quiet.  The other field is cut leaving a long view to the Turnpike (unfortunately) but lots of riding options as we can now cut cross country if we want to instead of weaving our way along the edges of planted fields.

We looped back under the first set of  power lines and then cut across where the electric company guys had cut all the brush down under their lines opening up another place to ride. That let us get into the woods along the back trail where we navigated through the fallen trees to the trail back home. Chance was having a grand time and so was I.  It took us about 35 minute or so to complete the ride as the trotting cut off quite a bit of time. Still, it was enough since he's not too fit, not clipped, and it was warm.

Back home, I did some barn chores and then fed the Boys.

I'm having to switch over to some new hay. The guy from the sandpit next door lost almost all of his stored hay when the roof blew off his barn in a freak rainstorm a month or so ago--his farm is in upper New York State.  My heart is breaking as his hay is wonderful and he delivers it right to me, unloading and stacking it in my carport.

Now, I have to go get the hay myself.  The local supplier I use is about 15-20 minutes away. I can fit 8 bales in my SUV, so that's all I got for now, just to be sure the horses deemed the hay good enough to eat. If I want a bigger load, I have to take the horse trailer. That is a real nuisance, but if I need to do it I will. Otherwise, I can do the 8 bales at a time, perhaps making two trips in a day to make it 16. What I have to figure out is just how far a bale will go with the three boys. These bales seem a bit smaller than the ones I've been getting, so I may need to stock up more at one time.

The farmer who sells this hay is the guy who farms the cornfields I ride along. When he came out to greet me at his hay barn, he was walking with a cane. Apparently, he threw out his back pretty badly and is only waiting until he harvests the rest of the corn before going in for some surgery. When I told him about my other hay guy's loss, he just shook his head in sympathy. Apparently he'd lost a barn in the hurricane last year. This year, things were hardly better as, besides his bad back, someone stole one of his tractors!

Now, we are not talking little tractors here. The tires on his are over 5' tall! Apparently the thieves loaded it up on a flatbed and drove off. The only upside is that now, several months later--after all the insurance claims were settled--the police recovered the tractor some 35 miles away hidden in a lot. There's some fuss as to how far the investigation will go into the theft, but the farmer will get the tractor back, hopefully in good condition.

I can hardly imagine the planning that must have gone into the theft. Scary to think of, actually.

2013 has not been the best of years on many fronts. This is just one more episode to add to the list. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Arabs on the Trail

Once Again, I Ride JJ

I've been suffering from a little health issue that's kept my exercise program on hold for about a week, so today was the first riding I've done in at least that long.

The weather was lovely and the lack of any real rain around here has kept the woodland trails in top condition. Ireland Brook Park, which runs behind the farm where Christina keeps her horses has numerous stream crossings and some very varied terrain to both entertain and challenge any keen trail horse.

I have to laugh every time I ride JJ because with me in the saddle, he loves to lag behind Nordisk, Christina's youngster, and let them face all the "horse eating monsters" first.  Nordisk is proving to be quite brave about most everything, but every now and then he scares himself a little and needs some extra encouragement from Chris.  She rides with a bag of treats in a velcro closed bag, and for Nordie that bag is kind of his signal to stop and get a treat. Today he earned dozens just for being a really good boy.

But the ride was not without incident. It started when Chris tried to close the gate while she was aboard Nordisk. While he was certainly quiet about it, he's not yet enough on the aids to quite manage some of the close quarter maneuvering required. I ended up doing it aboard JJ, but even I was a klutz about it. I haven't quite figured out what combination of leg, seat, and hand it takes to get JJ in the proper place either. Fortunately, he's done it before, so we eventually managed although it was far from pretty.  I could just hear JJ muttering, "Just what is this idiot trying to get me to do now? Huh?"

Gate closed, we headed off across the field and into the woods.  The first section of trail passes right along and below the NJ Turnpike, so it's really noisy with all the traffic noise. It's really pretty in there but loud.

Fortunately, it doesn't take long to escape the ruckus to ride along a ridge above a nice little lake. Then we headed back down into the woods and soon had a stream crossing. The water was nearly up to the horses's bellies. All was going well--Nordisk has gotten really good about water crossings--when Nordie stepped into a hole or something. All of a sudden he was nearly down in the water with poor Chris just hanging on for dear life, giving him his head so he had all the room in the world to find his footing to get back up. Luckily, he did--saved Chris a dunking for sure. I think I felt JJ step down at one point too, so we think there may have been some kind of depression in the stream bed.  We got across OK and moved along.

At one point, as I was leaning sideways to pass a low hanging tree, someone in one of the houses up from the woods shot off a gun.  Good old JJ startled a little, but graciously did not smash me into the tree. (Thanks JJ!!!)  But after that, he was up and alert and suddenly read to take the lead on the ride. For a horse who generally, when I  ride him chooses the "slow as molasses in February" pace, he transformed into "alert Arab ready to conquer the world."  At this point, I led the trail for quite a while.

After another stream crossing and two paved roads, we encountered the "dead deer obstacle," along the trail. Chris had seen it on a ride the day before, so I was well warned to keep JJ's attention as we passed. I think Nordie was fine with it too, mostly because JJ had not balked and because the deer was kind of behind us instead of in head on position.

Up a hill and back into the woods, our next obstacle was more formidable. Apparently, someone had been cleaning the woods and there were 5- 6 big plastic bags of garbage on either side of a 4' wide trail. We had to pass through.

Again, the ride the day before had prepared JJ, so, although he did arch his neck and snort a little at the bags, he went on through.  Nordisk did not follow. To him, those bags looked a lot more suspicious. Despite JJ's going on up the trail he stopped and balked, his eyes wide and focused on those most  "dangerous" bags.

Chris cajoled and assured him, even adding a few treats for each step forward. Then, when I used JJ as a lure by walking him back to the bags and then turning back to head up the trail again, Nordisk decided that if JJ had managed to get through without being eaten, then probably he could too.  Good, Nordie!!!

Shortly after, we looped around and headed back for home along the same trail we'd come. Nordie passed the bags just perfectly as did JJ.

The darn dead deer posed more of a problem on the way back. This time its body was in full and obvious view as we approached. Nordisk's eyes bugged out and he started to get really spooked. Since we were just at a road crossing at this point. Chris asked me to nudge JJ to the forefront and encourage him to pass the deer to the crossing. Bless his Arab heart, he did just that, despite thinking that the deer really was "Something terrible to behold."

We cut more to the right on the problematic water crossing. I kept JJ moving then, and although it was clear he was a little uncertain about it, Nordisk came through just fine.

Altogether, we were out for about two hours.  Back at the farm, Chris managed to get the gate open while staying in the saddle marking another successful "trail horse in the making" challenge for Nordisk.

I had a great time on the master horse and Chris taught Nordisk some new and valuable lessons about conquering the trails. He is going to make one fine endurance horse.

Monday, November 11, 2013

RIP, Peppercorn

My Heart Has a Great Big Hole

Early this morning, my phone range. It was my cousin telling me there was a dead black cat on the road by the farmhouse up by the Turnpike. He didn't know if it was my cat, but he was concerned.

When I went outside, Peppercorn, my barn kitty, best outdoor buddy ever, was no where to be seen.

I drove the truck up the road and sure enough, there was my beautiful boy, lying in the center of the road.

I managed to pick him up despite the heavy traffic--gee, a car actually stopped for me! I put him in the truck and brought him home.

I dug his grave in the rosebed near the barn and buried him.

Pepper followed me everywhere and even went on walks with me in the woods. He was almost always there to greet me when I home. He'd stay with me when I rode in the arena and supervise me when I fed the horses. I loved him dearly. 

I had always feared he would go on the road and get hit by a car or truck. I have lost far too many cats that way around here. I guess it was an inevitable fate for an outdoor kitty here. But Pepper would have nothing of being kept in the house. He was a brave adventurer who had survived on his own before he became my friend. I tried to give him the life he wanted no matter the cost. 

Rest in peace my beloved buddy. My world is definitely emptier without your company. I love you PepperC. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Where Did the Time Go?

And Not Just the Daylight

Somehow, I have not managed to ride since Saturday. I did cut back on Chance's bute and finally stopped it altogether, so I do need to do something with him to see how sound he is with no medication.

Sunday, I was supposed to join Chris and Larry on an Arabian trail ride, but Chris's young horse had pulled up lame after a rather exciting incident on the trails here the day before. He apparently spooked at a plastic bag and managed to lose Chris. Then he tangled himself up in some plastic silt fence set up with stakes along the new detention basin the Turnpike built in the field. (Wrong place as far as I'm concerned, but that's a whole 'nother story.) The trail there has been filled in with quarry stone--the bigger chunks--and Nordisk did some dancing on that as well. Since he's barefoot, he may have bruised himself a bit as well.

So, we did not venture off on a long ride somewhere. Instead, because Nordisk was stuck at home, Chris and Larry decided to ride in the arena at their barn. This gave me the opportunity to give Larry a riding lesson on his horse, Juan.

Juan is a great horse for Larry. They both love to run and have a good time, but sometimes things get a little out of control, so my goal was to help Larry improve the security of his seat and learn how to better steer Juan to keep control of his body, not just his head.

Life gets tricky with all this sometimes. Our riding weight and position in the saddle makes a huge difference as to where our horses go when we ask them to turn.  And getting them to bend correctly through the body on a turn can be critical for both our balance and theirs.

The key is generally the outside rein and getting the horse to step into it through his body as he bends around the rider's inside leg.  For the rider, getting the concept can be difficult as we all want to use an indirect rein on the inside to push our horses over so they don't fall in on a turn (Make motorcycle turn.).  This doesn't accomplish much as all it really does is ride the horse's head and neck with the rein when we should be riding the body.

Lockie Richards, my favorite trainer, helped me with my PJ on this one. PJ tended to fall in badly on his right shoulder. I keep hearing Lockie's voice in my head, "Drop your right knee."  This lengthened my right leg against PJ's side bringing my aids from seat, to thigh, to leg against him to hold the shoulder and his body from falling in. I used this memory and technique to help Larry correct Juan and, even though it was hard work for Larry--it's kind of counterintuitive in some ways--it worked and when both Juan and Larry were positioned right, Juan not only turned well, but he also came on the bit.

I do add something else which is a bit unconventional. I have the rider spread both hands out to the side. This keeps him from using the inside indirect rein and it places the outside, supporting rein as a kind of "wall" on the outside to push the horse's body into.  Add the idea that the two reins are a set of tracks and the rider needs to ride the horse between the tracks and the image of how to steer the body without depending solely on the reins becomes clearer.

At any rate, Larry did a super job and Juan was a wonderful teacher.

We worked a little on canter as well, striving to get Larry more seated in the saddle moving with Juan by keeping his heel down and leg under his body instead of gripping with his lower leg back and his knees. Gripping with knees and thighs tends to push the rider out of the saddle rather than sitting him down and "into the horse's motion."  Flexible joints allow us to sit a horse's gaits, so muscle tension--except for positive, not defensive tension--bounces us in the saddle.

Hopefully, I helped a little. I'd love to work with Larry again since it was so much fun. And teaching makes me think about how to ride better myself, so that's always a good thing.

I had my knees injected again today and a chiropractic appointment later so I did not ride again today. I swam on Monday, walked for about an hour on Tuesday--and picked up a bunch of corn from the reaped cornfield, so I am not totally lacking in the exercise program. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, and I am considering a swim, but I do have to take it a bit easy after the knee treatments.

What I do need to do is clean my bedroom and organize/sort my clothes. It's a huge job, and as many of my horsey Facebook pals have noted, for a horseman, working in the barn is much more fun than cleaning house.

Sure looks it around here. *G*

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Schooling on Two Levels

November Begins

I nearly overslept this morning, but fortunately woke up at a bit after 9 AM. Just in time to feed the Boys, do a few chores, eat breakfast, and then get ready to go give a tutoring session.

My student is a lovely young 6th grader who lives about 14 miles away. I had directions, but forgot to take my GPS--it was in the car instead of the truck (which I am still driving until the car's suspension is fixed), and I did not remember to take my tutoree's phone number with me. Good thing I saw her dad going out to get the mail or I would have missed her house altogether.

I made it there, however, thank goodness. We had a nice tutoring session which took a bit longer than I'd anticipated because my student's mother had a lot of questions. Hopefully I helped her out and steered her in the right direction for parent/teacher conferences which are coming up soon.

After tutoring, I headed back home. I had a lunch and got distracted playing with some of the features on my new TV. I still have a lot to learn but I am getting the hang of things at least a little.

Finally, I headed outdoors into the beautiful weather to do something with the horses.

Tucker was on the agenda first, so he was my second schooling session of the day after the tutoring. Apparently, he has forgotten that a leg aid means to go from walk to trot instead  of laying his ears back, balking, and then humping his back to offer a buck because I gave him a little kick.

I promptly corrected that behavior and told him to trot off again. The second time, he did. We then worked on some trot/halt/trot transitions over and over until he was willing to trot off with a light aid. Canter departs were OK for a change so I didn't have to make a fuss about that.

The sad fact is that Tucker really does not respect me and tends to challenge my requests. It takes a bit of nerve on my part to insist he respond because he can, as he tried today, give a good buck if he gets too arrogant. Fortunately, I have so far been able to tune him up and tune him in with a little extra effort on my part, but I would be nice to avoid the initial confrontations. *sigh*

After I finished Tucker's schooling session I saddle up Chance and took him out on a short trail ride through the woods. Our only little glitch was meeting a bow hunter out there. The guy was dressed in camouflage and when he stood still, he was nearly invisible among the trees. I asked him to both talk and move so Chance would know he was there and once he did, my boy was just fine with him, even though he had spooked at first.

The woods are beautiful this time of year with all the color on the trees and no bugs. The back cornfields are cut but the one nearest my pasture is still standing. Once that is cut, I will have even more places to ride.

Hopefully I will get out in the saddle a lot in the next months.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Well, It Almost All Continues

But Chance is Feeling Better

A word to begin As I noted yesterday, my 40" Samsung Smart TV arrived vis UPS. So far, so good. It seems to be working on just about all fronts although I still have not tried the keyboard.

However, I had it hooked up to my standard cable TV box, so it was not receiving a high definition signal. In order to get that, I had to swap out the old cable box to a new HD one. I'd already done that with the bedroom TV, so it was no big deal--the Comcast place is only about 5 miles away--and the hookup is pretty straightforward.

I decided to so my swim in the early morning so I'd have the rest of the day to do "stuff," including getting the new HD box and hooking it up. That all should have taken an hour or so.

Dream on.

I got the box before 10 AM.  I brought it home, hooked it up, pressed the power button on the remote and....nothing. I checked all the wires, tried another outlet and still...nothing.

I cannot tell you how frustrated I was. After all the nonsense with all those defective products I'd had the previous weeks, this was the last straw.  I gritted my teeth and headed back to Comcast. (The road I have to drive on to get there is the route I used to take to school every day. The traffic is slow going with tractor trailers and a bunch of traffic lights. I hate driving on it.)  So, cursing for most of the drive I arrived back at Comcast to trade in the box. When the woman there tried power, nothing. With no problem, she swapped it out for another brand new box.  Before I left, she tested that one to make sure it had power and she activated it there. I was going to be able to just plug it in at home, make the connections, and then be all set.

Dream on.

I hooked everything up, turned on the power, watched all the pretty lights light up, and then saw my TV screen read, "No HDMI signal."  I checked all the connections, went on line to reactivate the box.  And still, "no signal."

So, I called Comcast technical support. The very helpful second tier technician spent about a hour with me. He sent signals to the box to activate it, read all the computer readouts on my system and, after trying all kinds of connection techniques, told me the new box was defective.

I was a bit worried now, because this was a new TV set that had not yet worked off the HDMI cable connection, so I wasn't sure if it was defective or if it really was the box.

Then I had a brainstorm and after checking with the techie, I disconnected the new HD set in the bedroom from its Comcast HD box and connected the new Samsung to that box in the living room.

Voila!! Picture, sound, and a good connection!  Indeed the second new box was defective as well and it wasn't the TV.

Back I went to Comcast after waiting out their lunch break. By now it was already 2 PM and I'd been out since 6:30 AM when I'd gone swimming.

This time, I asked for a Motorola box like the one I had in the bedroom.  The techie there checked to make sure it had power and sent me off with a new box.

Third time pays for all.

With a bit more fussing, I got the new box working and now, at last, I have two functioning HD TV's.

I guess I would have been less upset if the brandy new fiber optic Christmas tree I bought had been perfect--another long story I'll tell on another day--but that too had a broken part making it non-functional until I did a major operation to get it working. And it was, indeed, broken.


At least Chance is less broken. I managed to get a short ride in before I fed the Boys dinner.

He was feeling pretty good. Now, this is on two bute, so I can't claim he's actually sound, but he wanted to move out on his own and when I let him trot a little bit, he felt even.

We only took the middle road through the woods which took just a bit under a half hour. There are a few very shallow ups and downs, all of which he handled with ease, so all in all, I'd say he was a happy boy.

I'll give him two bute tomorrow, then taper off to one a day for a few more days and then see how he is. If this is a muscle issue a bit over a week of pain med should be enough to help him work it out.

I will increase his exercise a little at a time, hoping to get him fit enough to stay sound.

Riding him was a good ending to a frustrating day. At least I have a smile on my face.

Oh, and Chance had an apple.